November 7, 2017

To Those Who Believed in Me, And to Those Who Didn't

This post was developed in collaboration with P&G as part of their Love Over Bias campaign.
All content and opinions are my own.

Even with all the privilege I have in navigating the world (my middle eastern heritage is hidden behind my pale skin, my queer identity is often invisible, and I'm of able body), I've been challenged by the external limitations imposed onto me. Whether it was in my pursuit of sports as a child and teenager, when I really excelled at swimming and water polo but was discouraged from "bulking up" because it wasn't "ladylike," or in wanting to pursue the arts for my higher education but being discouraged because it wasn't a traditional, "safe" path, or wanting to work in fashion but being told, quite literally, that I'd have to lose weight to be taken seriously in the industry - I've been told "no" so many times. What if I wasn't socialized to believe that being gay, or jewish, or middle eastern, or a first generation American, or fat - were all somehow barriers to my success? What if the intersection of my identities were celebrated and seen as unique assets rather than something I should try to obscure?

I like to imagine a world where everyone is encouraged to pursue their dreams; yes, doses of reality are important and it can be even more damaging to set people up to fail, but being supported and cheerlead is so vital to promoting self-confidence and helping people actualize their goals and dreams. I like to imagine a world where we don't have to push doors open, because there are no doors - and people have the agency to move in and out of spaces freely and equally, a world where we all approach opportunities on a leveled playing field, a world where we're all recognized and celebrated for our individual beauty, our power, our talent.

In anticipation of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, P&G is celebrating all the people who ever said "yes, you can do this" - especially the moms and maternal figures in our lives. The "Love over Bias" spot brought me to tears -- and I think is a lived truth relatable to anyone with a marginalized identity or experience. While I don't think the emotional labor of encouraging and supporting should be left only on the shoulders of women, I know how often that work is left to mothers alone - and how important it is to recognize and appreciate. The support I've had from my mom has been invaluable. She's been one of my biggest sources of inspiration my entire life, and now, as an adult and entrepreneur, she's my biggest fan and advocate. She has taught me that women should feel empowered to be more.

I know, for certain, that I wouldn't be where I am today without having heard "no, you can't" so many times - and working so hard to defy and prove those "no's" wrong. I also can't imagine how much further I might possibly be, or what else I might have pursued or accomplished, if I heard more "yesses," and if I was encouraged at more points along my journey to pursue my dreams.

This post was developed in collaboration with P&G as part of their Love Over Bias campaign.
All content and opinions are my own.

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